With 2012 coming to a close and 2013 just around the corner, a lot of us here at Udacity are starting to think about things we want to learn in the next year. I have to (sheepishly) admit that I set a few learning goals for 2012 that I didn’t quite finish.  So I have been polling friends, reading books, and browsing the web for ways to learn more in 2013.  I’ve picked up some great tips:

Make Learning Personal

Make a formal commitment to yourself.  Write your learning goals down and set a timeline for accomplishing them. Whether its finishing Udacity’s CS101 or learning to play the harmonica — set a specific goal, make a deadline, and measure your progress regularly.  Each week, assess how you are doing on those milestones and keep yourself accountable.

Public Accountability

Tell the world what you plan to learn.  Write a blog post about it, tweet it, share it on Facebook, or YouTube … there are plenty of ways to let a whole lot of people know what you plan to get done.  For many people, this public declaration creates positive pressure to meet your learning goal. To really make this work be as specific as possible.  Like: “I am going finish CS253 in eight weeks; I will do one unit per week and take the final exam in the eighth week. Cheer me on!” You may be surprised by the cheerleaders who pop up along the way.  If you loop us in on your goals by tweeting them at #UdacityGoals, we (and hopefully the broader Udacian community) will root for you!

Buddy System

Pair up with a friend and share your learning goals with each other.  Check in with your ‘buddy’ regularly (every day or every week) and hold each other accountable for meeting the interim milestones you’ve set. I have really seen this work when I started running; getting up at 6am to run 5 miles is a lot easier to do when there’s someone waiting for you on the trail — it keeps you accountable.

Be Realistic

Whatever you want to learn, set reasonable, realistic goals for doing it. For example, if you want to learn the guitar, set a realistic goal of learning 5 songs and give yourself enough time to do it. If your goals are unrealistic, you’ll just get frustrated. For Udacity courses in particular, we know they can be challenging and can (will) make you sweat.  But set your own pace: take them one unit at a time and you’ll be amazed at what you have achieved at the end.

Study Something You’re Interested In

It is hard to stay motivated when you don’t really care about what you are trying to accomplish. That seems obvious, but far too often, we try to learn something that we think we should, rather than something we are really interested in. So pick something you can get passionate about and it’ll make it easier to stick to your goal!

There are countless ways to stay motivated about learning and what I’ve summarized here is just the tip of the iceberg.  We’d love to hear about how you stay motivated to finish your Udacity courses or any other goal you’ve set. Join the conversation at #UdacityGoals.  Let us know your tips and tricks — we’re looking forward to hearing from you!